- Finland’s Helsinki-Vantaa international airport has become a key transit hub for Russian tourists.
- Many of them drive into Finland amid an EU ban on Russian flights into its airspace.
- Russian tourists holding valid EU Schengen visas can travel freely within the zone.
The European Union has banned Russian flights from its airspace over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, but Russian travelers are still touring countries in the bloc.
Russian holidaymakers have been able to travel to various EU destinations by taking circuitous routes to their destinations — or, if their locations allow, by simply driving across the country’s northwestern border to Finland and making their way to the Helsinki-Vantaa international airport.
Since the EU flight ban, Finland has become a key transit hub for Russian tourists, so much so that their luxury cars — Porsches and Bentleys, among others — are packing the garage at the Helsinki airport, AFP reported on Tuesday.
“Helsinki airport is seeing a lot of Russian tourism at the moment,” Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told AFP.
That’s been the case since Russia eased Covid travel restrictions on July 15, sending border crossings up 80% in just one month from June, per AFP. The situation has angered many Finns, who find it difficult to accept Russians holidaying in Finland while the Kremlin is still at war with Ukraine.
An attraction popular with Russian tourists in Finland has even gone as far as to play the Ukrainian national anthem to protest war, the AFP reported.
Finland is planning to limit Russian tourist visas from September 1, according to the country’s foreign ministry in a statement last week. However, Russians can still enter Finland with visas issued by other EU countries in the borderless Schengen region. As it stands, two-thirds of Russians cross into Finland via its eastern border with visas issued by other EU countries, the Finnish border guard told AFP.
“They come here on Schengen visas issued by various different countries and then continue further via Helsinki airport,” Haavisto told the outlet. Under Schengen rules, Finland cannot unilaterally deny entry to those holding valid visas.
EU foreign ministers are set to discuss a region-wide visa ban for Russian nationals next week but not all member states think it’s a good idea as there may be those who want to flee President Vladimir Putin’s regime.
“This is not the war of the Russian people, but it is Putin’s war,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said last week at a press conference.